The Mission Trip Question

My 15 year old daughter wants to go on a mission trip but you say that mission trips are inappropriate for young girls. You should not discourage people from serving Christ when they are obviously acting in obedience to the great commission. -a mom

The great commission was given to the disciples and by following it, they risked being beaten, thrown in jail, questioned, tortured, and brutally executed. These were the mission experiences for the disciples in all but one case.

The purpose of the great commission was to win souls for the kingdom of heaven. The disciples were fully equipped to accomplish this and were wisely resigned to and prepared for the inherent risks. They led souls to Christ in an uncompromising, bold, and Spirit-filled manner even to the point of death.

I don’t think that this is what you mean by “mission trip”, and yet this is exactly what a “mission trip” was (and continues to be) for so many Christians who, in the world during Bible times as well as today, face the hatred and animosity of religious sects and atheist fundamentalists who would like nothing more than to destroy them.

The “mission trip” you are likely thinking about is the highly commercialized, expensive, “safe”, “Christian” vicarious-vacations-in-poverty that corporate mission organizations sell to pampered, relatively wealthy North Americans. Your daughter will go somewhere slummy, see rat-infested homes and flea-bitten dogs, featherless chickens, sickly children, dirty walls, dirty toilets, dirty streets (not to mention dirty men), do a bit of hard labour, but win zero souls to Christ and come home to talk about what a great time she had “slumming it” with the poor folks. Calling this a “mission trip” is a misnomer.

Let’s learn from the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31. She travels (as far as she can walk) to find goods at a fair price for her home, to feed her family healthfully, clothe them, and find ways to secure their future. She serves the needs of her own husband and her own household first and she does so gladly, wisely, frugally, and laboriously. Her “mission work” is accomplished in the way she takes care of the poor and needy that live – in many cases – right next door. She “reaches forth her hands to the poor” and “her candle goes not out all the night”. Do you see how her love, time, and energy are spent in service to her household and in a manner which glorifies God? For the most part, she is a “keeper at home” (Titus 2:5).

If “home” is on the mission field where she supports her husband while he protects her, good for her! (See the story of Aquila and Priscilla). It is entirely appropriate for a mature, married woman to serve the needs of her household while in the field as long as she is well-prepared in her faith to do so, and under the protection and authority of her husband. But please, mom, keep this in mind: it is the “harlot” of Proverbs 7 whose “feet abide not at home”. The “harlot” is young, single, unfulfilled, and restless. So are most hormonal 15 year olds who call themselves Christian, but were raised on Walt Disney. They lack the sobriety of godly submission and spiritual maturity.

There is one thing of value that “mission-trip-kids” learn. Their exposure to poverty helps them appreciate what they have at home. However, why would you take the hard-earned money of your fellow Christians in order to travel abroad when you can take a family vacation on your own coin to an impoverished part of the country? A low-income area with a soup kitchen or hospice is never far away and always in need of a few helping hands. If you and your husband are spiritually mature enough to lead a stranger to Christ, you will have a chance to model it for her so that she will be strengthened and inspired by your courage. If you do not have the wherewithal to do such a thing yourself, what makes you think that she will?

Some mission trip kids are unfortunate enough to learn a tough lesson while abroad. It’s that their poor Christian counterparts who live in the third world tend to be richer in faith than the average church-going American. Your daughter might just come home with a clearer understanding of church hypocrisy. When the “have’s” call themselves Christian but prioritize money over Christ, the “have-not’s” put them to utter shame by claiming Christ despite of – and sometimes because of – their own material poverty. In many cases, this very experience alienates mission trip kids from Christianity. A numb, lukewarm faith lived in a materialistic home seals their fate.

May I suggest that you teach your daughter to learn submission, modesty, and self-discipline, to control the imaginations of her heart, and to work diligently to learn the Word of God to do what it says. You can facilitate her ability to learn these lessons in your own home by your own godly example demonstrated by a loving and respectful partnership with your husband through the power of the Holy Spirit – and you can do all these things for free.

Thanks for reading.


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